The Effects on Agriculture in Utah of Water Transfers to Oil Shale Development

B. Delworth Gardner
Kenneth S. Lyon
Roger O. Tew

This work made publicly available electronically on May 17, 2012.


The so-called energy crisis produced renewed interest in national self-sufficiency in energy production, a new look at "unconventional" energy sources such as oil shale, tar sands, and coal gasification and liquefaction, and a spate of governmental initiatives to encourage development. The northeast section of Utah (the Uintah Basin) is a part of the rich oil shale belt, and with the government leasing of two prototype sites on the White River known as Ua and Ub, it was believed by many people that oil shale development was imminent. Studies were made of the water needs of an oil shale industry and agricultural producers became threatened because they are the big users of water in the area. This study assesses the water situation in the Uintah Basin and explores the likely effects of development of the prototype lease sites on agriculture. The study consists of two parts: (1) An analysis of the current water demand-supply situation in the area and the projected impact of oil shale development with particular emphasis on agriculture, and (2) an analysis of the effects on farm production decisions of increasing the variability of water deliveries resulting from water transfers. The first part deals generally with the quantities of water available for agricultural production while the second deals with issues that arise when the variability of those quantities is increased even if the annual quantity of irrigation water available is unaffected. This study was financed by a grant from the Office of Water Research and Technology under its Title I Allotment Program. Gardner and Tew were responsible for Part I dealing with the current demand supply situation and Lyon wrote Part II on . the effects of increasing the variability of water supplies to irrigators.